The 2014-15 season in television has graced audiences across the country with some of the most intense, scandalous and unpredictable storylines seen in quite some time. Television has especially become as diverse as ever, finally showcasing people of color in enthralling leading roles on successful shows such as, “Empire,” “Fresh Off the Boat,” “How to Get Away With Murder” and “Jane the Virgin.” Although they are far from perfect in encapsulating the experiences of all racial and ethnic minorities in the United States, these shows do all have one thing in common: their ability to represent the reality of diversity in our society. African-Americans, Latinos and Hispanics and Asian-American communities are finally being represented on our television screens each week.
Representation of diversity in the media is an issue that has been discussed fervently for decades and very much continues today. Most of the conversation has centered on why diversity is positive and completely necessary, but one controversial piece has recently questioned whether or not this representation of diversity in television may be “too much of a good thing.”
On March 24, Deadline editor Nellie Andreeva published an article deeming 2015 the year of “ethnic castings,” apparently referring to the increased variety of ethnicities represented in the casts of popular new series such as “Empire” and “Fresh Off the Boat,” whose main casts are both comprised entirely of non-white actors and actresses. “As is the case with any sea change, pendulum might have swung a bit too far in the opposite direction,” Andreeva wrote, to which she received immediate and aggressive backlash.
The title of this article has been changed from its original — which stated that ethnic diversity in TV was “too much of a good thing” — to “Pilots 2015: The Year of Ethnic Casting.” Deadline states that the original title “did not correctly reflect the content of this article.”
After reading the article I, too, found myself seething. How can diversity on television ever be considered “too much of a good thing?” It is common knowledge that television generally depicts contrived reality, but most of the time, it nonetheless attempts to depict a tangible reality. Shaming diversity or proposing more “color blind” casting and storylines only sets us further behind. Television, before the premiere of many of these shows, was almost completely devoid of already large (and still growing) demographics of people living in the United States. Crying foul and catering to an already privileged population is not what the entertainment industry needs.
Like many people, I consider myself to be a television enthusiast, someone who tries her absolute hardest to keep up with all the exciting developments on a variety of different shows and genres. While I enjoy these shows a lot, what I have rarely been able to enjoy is an on-screen experience similar to mine that is just as boisterously shared.
That’s why the “ethnic casting” of “Jane the Virgin” and “Cristela” — as “discriminatory” as it may be — is so important to me. As a Latina, I strongly relate to characters like Jane Villanueva and Cristela Hernandez. Growing up, the only form of representation I would see of this was in Spanish language telenovelas on networks that cater to Hispanic and Latino American audiences, such as Univision. However, as many people know, telenovelas are not only purposely outrageous and infeasible, but they also take place largely in Latin American countries and not here in the United States. While the issues Jane, Cristela and their families face may not be the stories of all Latino-Americans, they nonetheless crucially depict the experience of life in the United States as a minority, and as individuals constructing their own definition of what it means to be an American.
The same goes for “Black-ish,” “Fresh Off the Boat” and “How To Get Away With Murder.” These shows have garnered positive feedback from many viewers and critics because of their great accessibility to audiences. They are incredibly important to the countless individuals who sit down each week to watch, and the reason for this is simple: Minorities are watching themselves be represented, as actually existing as a part of the society we inhabit. Whether in regard to African-Americans, Latinos, Asians or other people of color, these relatable stories depicted through weekly episodes are poignant and memorable. Although they’re not necessarily “real,” this poignancy — comedic or dramatic — makes them feel more genuine and comforting to those who can relate.
Television is supposed to express the reality of the society we live in, not suppress it. It’s ridiculous to claim that the diversity we are currently seeing is “too much of a good thing.” Last time I checked, this was 2015 and we were living in an environment where diversity is not only encouraged, but is also entirely necessary.